Common SBOM Mistakes to Avoid

SBOM Mistakes to Avoid | MergeBase

Software Bill of Materials are quickly becoming a critical component in an organization’s cybersecurity defense strategy. But as their popularity grows outside of the industries where their use is mandatory (medical devices, US government contractors, etc.), so too are the mistakes and bad habits that impact an SBOM’s effectiveness.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the common SBOM mistakes to avoid and the best practices for SBOM management. But first, a little refresher…

What is an SBOM?

A Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) is a comprehensive inventory of components used to build a software application or system. The document provides detailed information about each component, including its version, libraries, dependencies, and associated metadata.

Acting as a blueprint for software, SBOMs provide software transparency, help teams manage open-source and third-party dependencies, and enable developers to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities affecting their applications.

SBOMs also play an essential role in maintaining regulatory compliance, as many industries require organizations to keep an accurate inventory of software components.

Common SBOM mistakes to avoid

1. Incomplete inventory

An SBOM is only as effective as its data — failing to include dependencies can lead to inaccurate risk assessments and ineffective vulnerability management.

96% of applications have at least one open-source component, yet one of the most common SBOM mistakes organizations make is only focusing on in-house development. Failing to include legacy or third-party components in your SBOM creates a huge blindspot, leaving your software vulnerable to known exploits that could have been easily avoided.

2. Inconsistent naming conventions

Inconsistent naming conventions, in addition to formatting, have the biggest effect on the readability of an SBOM. This inconsistency creates confusion and makes it challenging to map software components accurately, leading to missing vulnerabilities or incorrectly calculated security risks.

3. Insufficient detail

Another common mistake — that the NTIA’s list of minimum elements for a Software Bill of Materials addresses — is failing to include all the necessary information in your SBOM. This is particularly problematic if you have to share SBOMs with customers or other stakeholders because they won’t have the information required to do a proper analysis.

A Software Bill of Materials must include data about software components, including

  • Component name
  • Supplier name
  • Component version
  • Unique identifiers
  • SBOM author and timestamp
  • Dependency relationships

It must also outline standard practices and procedures for creating, updating, distributing, and accessing the document and how errors are handled.

4. Not updating the SBOM regularly

Regular updates are essential for maintaining the accuracy and relevance of SBOMs. (This includes keeping track of changes, including updates and patches done by third parties.)

Outdated documentation is more of a problem for teams that make mistake #5. Still, all organizations should have policies in place to ensure SBOMs are reviewed and updated regularly.

5. Not automating the creation and maintenance of SBOMs

The final SBOM mistake we’ll cover is a lack of automation. When SBOMs were first introduced, access to automation tools that could create, edit, manage, and distribute Software Bills of Materials was hard to come by, so teams had to do it manually.

However, with the rise of tools like MergeBase, teams can automate their SBOMs, eliminating the risk of human error and significantly improving accuracy rates. (Not to mention save a lot of time!)

If you’re still manually managing your SBOMs, start a free MergeBase trial today and discover the power of automation.

Impact of SBOM mistakes

The consequences of SBOM mistakes can be severe and have significant repercussions for organizations and their customers. These consequences include:

  • Increased vulnerability exposure: Incomplete or inaccurate SBOMs leave organizations vulnerable to cyber threats, increasing the likelihood of successful attacks.

  • Regulatory non-compliance: Failure to provide or maintain accurate SBOMs can result in regulatory fines and penalties for non-compliance in many industries, including healthcare, government contracting, and critical infrastructure.

  • Ineffective incident response and remediation: Inaccurate SBOMs hinder incident response efforts, delaying the identification and remediation of security incidents, which puts customer data at risk.

  • Reputational damage and trust issues: Security incidents resulting from SBOM deficiencies can severely damage an organization’s reputation and erode customer trust. This trust can be almost impossible to rebuild, depending on the extent of the resulting breach.

Best practices for creating and managing SBOMs

To avoid these common SBOM mistakes (and mitigate the associated risks), organizations should adopt the following best practices for creating and managing SBOMs:

  • Implement automated inventory tools: Utilizing tools like MergeBase to generate and maintain SBOMs reduces the risk of human error and ensures accuracy.

  • Continually monitor changes and update accordingly: Implement processes for continuous monitoring and update SBOMs to reflect changes in software composition.

  • Follow standardized formatting and metadata practices: Adhere to standardized formats (like SPDX and CycloneDX) and metadata conventions to enhance the usability of your SBOMs and facilitate interoperability.

  • Improve collaboration between departments: For best results, foster collaboration between security, development, and procurement teams to ensure comprehensive SBOM coverage.

  • Incorporate SBOMs into the development lifecycle: Even if SBOMs are not a requirement in your industry, integrating SBOM generation and maintenance into the software development lifecycle promotes proactive risk management that strengthens your organization’s software supply chain security.


In conclusion, SBOMs are a vital tool in cybersecurity defense strategies, providing organizations with insights into software composition and vulnerabilities. By avoiding common SBOM mistakes and adopting best practices for SBOM management, organizations can enhance their cybersecurity posture, mitigate risks, and safeguard their digital assets effectively.